In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia – who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.’
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
‘we will give our attention to prayer…’ (verse 4)
In a church like TCC, as in the Early Church, there are all sorts of pressures calling our attention: real needs, felt needs, physical and material needs, as well as the spiritual needs of God’s people.
We thank the Lord for the way in which we are able to help the needy in our church. We thank the Lord for giving us the resources to be of practical help to many.
Here in verse 4 we see how the leaders of the Early Church prioritised: they prayed. And their prayers were obviously informed by God’s Word. This is an important point for us to dwell on today because we want to become a more of a praying church than we were a year ago. We want to speak to God about people before we speak to people about God. We want to know Christ better. We want to make Christ known more than we did a year ago. Let us take heed of the importance of prayer in the Early Church and remember how God heard and answered those prayers – after all, it is through God’s faithfulness that He worked through the first Apostles that we are here today!
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us not just to agree that prayer is important for us as individuals, and as a corporate body of believers – but help us to pray! Please forgive us our prayerlessness. Help us to put our faith into action as we thrust our dependence on You, devoting ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Amen.